Spring planting in the grain paddock

Chicken on compost pileAs soon as the chickens moved
on to their new, sunny pasture, I got to work improving
old pasture

The flock had scratched the ground relatively bare over the winter, and
I had also used it as a spot to toss compostables, weeds from the
garden, and tree prunings, so it needed a bit of work.  The
chickens ate everything tasty out of my compost piles and spread the
rest out over the ground (adding in some droppings to
), so I
raked the remaining debris up into two woody compost piles (for
long-term composting) and two normal compost piles.

Branches on the ground on a hillside prevent erosionSeveral large branches had
fallen out of the wild cherry in the middle of the pasture, and I used
these to shore up the sloped part of the pasture.  Chicken
scratching plus hillsides equals erosion, and I wanted to be sure to
hold all that soil into place.  I spread a healthy dose of white
clover seeds across bare patches on the sloping land in hopes of
creating a solid groundcover that can stand up to later chicken abuse,
adding in a bit of oat seeds on a whim.

Pasture plantingThe flat part of the pasture
will be a new grain/legume paddock this year, so I planted about a
third of it in oats and another third in field peas.  The last
third is going to be bare until the frost-free date, at which time I
plan to plant it (and probably the field pea section if the plants are
mature by then) with amaranth, millet, field corn, cowpeas, and
sunflowers.  Come fall, I’ll seed the paddock once again with
winter wheat.

Winter wheat in March

Meanwhile, our first
pasture has been home to wheat since November, and the grass-like
leaves are finally starting to grow again.  A heavy covering of
snow over the pasture for half of the winter tempted moles to come in
and dig around, uprooting wheat in several areas.  I’ll be excited
to see how the remaining wheat pans out over this summer, and will
replace it with rye in the fall.

These two pastures are
our grain paddocks, meant to grow some of the chickens’ feed for the
winter months when insects are hibernating.  But I may still run
the chickens through the pastures in August or September when the
grains have grown up over their heads and the chickens can do little

Our chicken waterer plus the pasture allow us to
leave our flock for long weekends without worrying.

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